January 18, 2012

1.     The Obama administrtion denied a permit for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, leaving the door open for the builder to reapply this year:

  • The State Department, responding to a 60-day deadline Congress imposed in late December, said that it did not "have sufficient time to obtain the information necessary to assess whether the project, in its current state, is in the national interest"--Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an ardent proponent of Keystone XL, "expressed his profound disappointment with the news, and he indicated to President Obama that he hoped that this project would continue," according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

2.     The GOP-controlled House kicked off another session with a protest vote against raising the government's borrowing cap by $1.2 trillion, but the maneuver amounted to political theater under a process stacked on purpose in President Obama's favor:

  • The nearly party-line 239-176 vote (all Oregon representatives except Walden, Oregon's sole Republican, voted "no") puts the House on record against Obama's use of unprecedented authority, awarded to him through a mechanism devised by the Senate's top Republican, to unilaterally raise the so-called debt limit unless Congress can muster the votes to block him--the Senate is sure to kill the measure next week, and Obama's veto power serves as a final guarantee that the increase will go through as intended and that the nation won't face another debt crisis like last summer.

3.     An Iranian lawmaker claimed that President Obama called for direct talks with Iran in a secret letter to the Islamic Republic's supreme leader that also warned Teheran against closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but Obama administration officials denied there was such a letter:

  • Iran has threatened to close the waterway, the route for about one-sixth of the global oil flow, because of new U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program--National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor pointed to earlier comments from the Obama administration that noted the U.S. had a number of ways to communicate its views to the Iranian government, and he said that the U.S. remained committed to engaging with Teheran and finding a diplomatic solution to its larger issues with Iran's nuclear program.

January 19, 2012

1.     A Department of Homeland Security official said that the Obama administration has recommended canceling deportation proceedings for more than 1,600 illegal immigrants in Denver and Baltimore not considered to be national security or public threats:

  • The recommendations come after a review of 11,682 pending cases involving illegal immigrants not jailed by federal authorities as part of an administration pledge to focus deportation efforts on criminal illegal immigrants and those who pose a national security or public safety threat--the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the preliminary data have not been released publicly, said that the recommendation to cancel the deportation cases hinges on immigrants being cleared by a final and extensive background check.

2.     Exporting boatloads of U.S. natural gas could significantly raise prices for domestic consumers and businesses, according to a new study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

  • The report is sure to add fuel to the controversy over proposals to build terminals to export liquefied natural gas from Oregon, British Columbia, and the U.S. Gulf Coast--the U.S. Department of Energy has received nine applications to collectively export to Asia and Europe as much as 12.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, almost 20 percent of daily U.S. demand, and the agency approved an application last year by Cheniere Energy to convert an import facility in Louisiana to export gas, but it delayed decisions on other applications until it could study the price impacts of exporting significant quantities of gas.

January 20, 2012

1.     The Obama administration said that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women without charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges, and charities:

  • The administration said that it would give some employers affiliated with churches an extra year to comply, meaning that coverage would not begin for their employees until well after the 2012 elections--in issuing the rule, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said it "strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services."

2.     Federal law enforcement agencies will help tribal officers obtain equipment and training on Native American lands near the U.S.-Canadian border as part of the White House's newly released strategy for reducing the flow of illegal drugs and drug proceeds between the two countries:

  • The goal is to stop Canadian marijuana, ecstasy, and methamphetamine from entering the U.S. and to keep cocaine that originates in South American from flowing north.